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Ranchland Ownership Change in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 1990–2001: Implications for Conservation

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Most of the public lands protected for conservation in the western United States are surrounded by working landscapes of various types, typically in agro-pastoral ownership and use. How these working landscapes evolve over time and how their inhabitants respond to various conservation goals will in large measure determine the success or failure of efforts to maintain regional biodiversity. This article contributes to a better understanding of ecological threat on the important private lands of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by suggesting the ways in which changes in ranch ownership become conservation opportunities or challenges. Relying on a combination of real estate sales data, land ownership data, and interviews with key informants, we assess trends and patterns of ownership change around Yellowstone National Park. The main ranchland dynamic in this region involves the transition from traditional ranchers, typically full-time livestock producers, to a more diverse cohort of landowners, including absentee owners focused on amenity or conservation values in addition to, or instead of, livestock production. We present a conceptual model for distinguishing between different ranch landscapes and discuss some of the conservation implications of these geographical patterns.

Keywords: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; amenity owners; land tenure; ownership fragmentation; ranch conservation; rural land use; transboundary conservation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Center of the American West, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA 2: Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food, and the Environment, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand 3: Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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